Darren’s on his way and Lisa’s first firing of Wee Bear since her return.

So far this blog seems to have been about beginnings and this post is also about something happening for the first time around. I thought I would write about Lisa’s first firing at Maze Hill since she has been back.

But first, to place things in context, after Svend did his workshop at Maze Hill, I went down to stay with him to make pots there for a week. Teapots ! While I was there, we were invited to a surprise-party at Kigbeare Studios. The party was for Darren Ellis who was apprenticed to Lisa, and who has now joined us at Maze Hill. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me so I did not take any photos of the party, but here is an old photo of Darren about to light the bigger kiln at Maze Hill in 2009. He hasn’t changed much since !

Darren with blow torch in hand

Darren in 2009, about to light Big Mother

A post about Darren is on my mind, but all I have seen of him so far since my return from Devon is his stuff on the pottery floor and his clay piled up in the yard, so it will have to wait until I have properly seen him in the flesh.

Anyway, on my way back from Svend’s last Tuesday, I stopped off at Maze Hill to drop my pots off. It was about 10pm when I got there, so imagine my surprise when I saw the lights on in the pottery ! When I got inside, I found the place in a state of chaos, with buckets of glaze here and there and glazed pots on the benches, jugs half filled with slip, forgotten half-full cups of tea waiting to be drunk, Lolly the dog sleeping in her bed under the bench. The same kind of show was also taking place outside by the kilns. I had seen this kind of agitation before and I had forgotten what it looked like but I knew what it meant : Lisa was packing the kiln and was going to fire the next day ! Although I felt shattered after my journey from Devon, with a stop for tea and cake at my friend’s in Dorset, I wanted to record those moments. This firing was especially important as some of the pots are going to Lisa’s exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham.

Rows of creamers


Wadding and other equipment

General chaos near kiln, complete with half-eaten marmite toast.

Last pots to go

Lasts pots to go in the kiln

Left over pots

Left over pots

The kiln being fired is called Wee Bear after the polar stamps on some bricks used to build it, whilst the bigger soda kiln is called Big Mother. Sometimes, when she does not behave, she is also called Big Mother + something at the end, a word I will not include for fear of hurting sensitive ears. According to Lisa, on the whole though, she is good and has given out beautiful work! It is interesting that for Lisa this kiln is a “she”; Svend’s kilns are also female. For me, kilns are male.

Wee Bear

Wee Bear

Packing was already almost finished but I had got there in time for the placement of the big pot and a few other small bits and pieces. First the pot had to be glazed, then wadded to prevent it from sticking to the kiln shelves. With such a big pot, – although by Svend’s standards it is a small pot, you need at least two people: one to hold it, one to glaze it then wad it. Mike, Lisa’s partner had the very difficult job of holding it and placing it in the kiln. Lisa was glazing it, pouring the glaze strategically so that it dribbled in a certain way.

Lisa and Mike getting the big pot ready

Lisa and Mike getting the big pot ready

Mike lifting the pot up

Mike lifting the pot up to set in place

Once Mike had loaded it in, Lisa checked that it was not touching the pot behind it to prevent them from sticking to each other during the firing. The pot had to be moved a few times before it was safe, then smaller pots were placed around it to make economic use of the space.

Mike setting the pot in place

Mike setting the pot in place

Lisa checking for space behind the big pot

Lisa checking the space behind the big pot

Lisa had also created a little wall around a plate sitting on a shelf below the big pot to help promote good reduction and to obtain good carbon effects. She is using wood at the end of the firing to obtain some lustre during the cooling period. As I understand it, for a soda-shino firing, she packs the kiln with wood at the end of the firing, this prevents the kiln from cooling too quickly and induces lustre effects.

The kiln finally packed

The kiln finally packed

The firing results

Sadly, I was unable to help with the firing, my regular job getting in the way as usual. I have better watch what I wish for though, my boss having told me so himself, after I told him that I can never get enough time off and that I much prefer time off in lieu rather than paid overtime !

My pottery time takes place at the week end and on any day off I can muster. So I arrived at the pottery on Saturday and found lots of lovely pots. At first I did not know what to think as I don’t remember Lisa going for pinks ever, and I was hoping she found the firing to be a success, which she does. Here is a small sneak preview of what can be expected at the Goldmark Gallery on top of the interview and film that they came to do during the week.

Big pot

The big pot

Small sample of pots

Small sample of pot



About ashpots

I am a member of the Kigbeare Kiln Team.
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4 Responses to Darren’s on his way and Lisa’s first firing of Wee Bear since her return.

  1. Jason Trigg says:

    Nice blog and great work. Can’t wait to start next week.

  2. Will Shirley says:

    Thanks for the great description of the firing. Very inspirational for me as I have a noborigama I have to convert to fire propane and i just haven’t gotten to it…

    • ashpots says:

      Hi Will, Thanks for your interest. Wow, converting a noborigama to propane, that must be some undertaking ! I wish we could simply wood fire the whole lot here but being in London prohibits it somehow. Lisa is a maestro with her kilns and she is interested in the effects she can get from “tweaking” if I can call it that. Good luck with your projects.

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